Immigration in Australia reaches 15 year high

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Australia welcomed 123,424 new immigrants in 2004-2005, the highest number in more than 15 years.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the number of immigrants each year is up about 40 percent in the past decade. "Australia has a wonderfully rich and diverse society as a result, with nearly one in four of Australia's 20 million people born overseas," Vanstone said.

More than one-third of the newcomers settled in New South Wales, in and around Australia's largest city, Sydney. Victoria, with the country's second city, Melbourne, also attracted large numbers of immigrants. The desolate Northern Territories lured fewer than 600.

Britain was the biggest source of immigrants, with 18,220 out of a total of 25,000 Europeans. There were 33,000 Asian immigrants and 24,000 from Africa and the Middle East, while smaller numbers came from North and South America.

About 17,000 people came to Australia from New Zealand and 4,000 from elsewhere in the Pacific region.